Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen
Additions/comments by Urologist Steven N. Gange, MD
For many men, the subject of erectile dysfunction can be extremely embarrassing. When a part they consider vital is not working correctly, they may want to keep it hidden, to the point of not going to a doctor to see how it can be fixed. Some men abstain completely from a sex life, simply choosing to ignore the issue and effectively becoming recluses in this area. Others genuinely want to see the problem fixed, but in an attempt to keep this aspect of their lives private, they turn to the internet as their guide.
While the internet can provide a wonderful wealth of information, it can be very hard for the average person to sift through it all. Even if you do find worthwhile advice, most people aren’t knowledgeable enough to know which of the more natural-style treatments may interact negatively with whatever medication they may be currently taking. They may not even be aware that some herbal treatments may simply interact negatively with them.
But since you’re already on the internet and searching for relevant information, here are some scams you should be aware of when it comes to the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Fenugreek and Yohimbine
According to the Harvard Medical School, herbs such as fenugreek and yohimbine have been shown to improve some form of sexual function in men. However, they still do not treat erectile dysfunction specifically and yohimbine can have some nasty side effects including high blood pressure, headaches, agitation, insomnia, and sweating–the opposite of helping your sex life.
DHEA and Horny Goat Weed
Both DHEA and horny goat weed have weak to no scientific evidence at all that they can help cure your dysfunction. However, as herbs go, they seem to be relatively harmless.
Ginkgo Biloba and Ginseng
Ginkgo biloba and ginseng are among the herbs commonly known to help treat memory loss and improve memory. However, there is little to no evidence that they can help treat erectile dysfunction. There is evidence that they can cause side effects that will definitely put a damper on your sex life. Ginko is linked to headaches, seizures, and bleeding, while ginseng can come with headaches, upset stomach, constipation, rash, insomnia, and low blood sugar, which can be especially problematic for men with diabetes. Needing to be rushed to the emergency room because you’re experiencing symptoms from herbs you’re taking without guidance is most likely more embarrassing than the original problem.
The herb Maca has been shown to correlate with increased sexual behaviors in animals, but has not yet been studied in humans. Nor has it been shown to cure erectile dysfunction in animals or humans. Moreover, while they are mild and not so common, it does come with side effects like increasing liver enzymes and blood pressure.
The amino acid L-Arginine was linked to improved erectile function in some patients. Unfortunately, a study that was testing it as a treatment after heart attacks showed several deaths among the patients given L-Arginine versus the placebo group, which had none. This forced researchers to stop the study–a screaming red flag, especially for men at risk of heart disease.
We would all like to have the privilege of keeping certain aspects of our lives completely private. However, when it comes to our health that privacy can prove problematic and even fatal, at times. Curing your erectile dysfunction can be as simple as switching out a medication you may be taking for something with less of a side effect. Your doctor is always the best source for information–much better than Dr. Google.